Young pickers impress crowds with bluegrass skills

Grand prize winner in the Young Pickers Talent Competition was Matthew Taylor, 13, of Maryville, playing the guitar.

Grand prize winner in the Young Pickers Talent Competition was Matthew Taylor, 13, of Maryville, playing the guitar.

Young musicians once again had the opportunity to showcase their skills at the Young Pickers Talent Competition at the Townsend Spring Festival. In the end, four teenagers took first place and earned some impressive bragging rights.

The competition had a variety of musical talents, with ages ranging from seven to 19. Designed for acoustic bluegrass musicians in the areas of guitar, banjo, mandolin and fiddle, bass, dulcimer and dobro, each young musician played two songs and was allowed one or two accompanists.

The grand prize winner was Matthew Taylor, 13 of Maryville, Tenn., playing the guitar. First prize winners included Matthew Boling, 16 of Blaine, Tenn., playing the banjo; Julie Nelms, 14 of Robbinsville, N.C., playing the fiddle and mandolin; and John Haynes, 12 of Cummings, Ga., playing the mandolin. Justin Walden and the Jay Tipton Band, of Athens, Tenn., won first place in the open competition.

First place winners were awarded $100, a plaque and a grand prize including two song CD mastering with 50 CD promo. Second place winners received $50 and ribbon, and third place received $25 and ribbon.

“This is the second year we have included this type of competition, and the level of talent of the young folks in the contest was just as impressive this year,” said Herb Handly, executive vice president of tourism for the Smoky Mountain Convention and Visitors Bureau. “The crowds loved the music, and we were happy to host these great young musicians and encourage them to continue their music and carry on the tradition of bluegrass and Appalachian spirit.”

Other Young Pickers winners included Alex Bacon, 15, of Maryville; Samuel Millsaps, 11, of Townsend; Paul Rusticus, 16, of Indianapolis, Ind.; Joseph Millsaps, 8, of Townsend; Autumn Danielle Craig, 7, of Norton, Va.; Tyler Smith, 19, and Chris Brown, 19, of Knoxville.

For more information about the Young Pickers Talent Contest and to become a supporter, contact Jeanie Hilten, Townsend Visitors Center, 865-448-6134.

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